Contour Cut vs Cut-to-Shape

Contour Cut vs Cut-to-Shape

When you order a decal using our Custom Decal Shape option, your design will be printed one of two ways: as a Cut to Shape decal on our white vinyl, or as a Contour Cut decal on our clear vinyl. The final look of your decal will be determined during Pre Production set up, when we're able to take a look at your artwork to find the best way to produce your design.


What are the differences between Cut to Shape and Contour Cut?

The biggest difference between a Cut to Shape decal and a Contour Cut decal is (usually) the material we use during printing. In general, our Cut to Shape decals are printed using our base white latex vinyl, and our Contour Cut decals are printed using our base clear latex vinyl. There are some cases where we will print a Contour Cut decal using our white vinyl material, but that doesn't happen very often.

Cut to Shape (sometimes called 'Die Cut' or 'Kiss Cut') means the final look of the decal will be cut to the shape of the design itself with no empty border or remaining background material. Vinyl Lettering and Wall Decals are usually produced as Cut to Shape decals.

Contour Cut means the final look of the decal will be custom cut around the design, with some remaining background material inside the decal between the design elements themselves. We usually try to reduce the amount of material left inside the design by cutting away all but a 1/8" (0.125") margin around the outside edge of the design itself, though in some cases it makes better sense to leave the material in place and just cut around the outside of the entire design.

How do you determine if a design can be Cut to Shape or if it requires a Contour Cut?

We have a few guidelines we look for when setting up artwork for print that help us determine if we're able to produce a design as a Cut to Shape decal or if we'll need to use a Contour Cut. These include the overall size of the design, text height, and color overlap in the design.

  • Overall Size: The overall size of a design can impact how we need to produce a decal. If there are a lot of details in the design, but the overall size is small enough that those details could be lost if we try to produce it as Cut to Shape, we'll often opt for a Contour Cut instead. In some cases we can simplify the details to allow us to produce a design as Cut to Shape, like removing some textures to reduce the number of picks we need to weed out during production or thickening lines to reduce the possibility of breaking or stretching during decal application. Most of the time, these changes aren't even noticable and don't impact the final look of the design at all. However, if the customer prefers we don't take those precautions, we'll opt for a Contour Cut on the final piece.
  • Text height: for Cut to Shape lettering, out minimum text height is 0.25". This means we will measure the smallest letter in your design, and if it is under 0.25", we will need to print on our clear material and do a Contour Cut. As an example, let's say you want the phrase "I Do Believe In Spooks" as your vinyl lettering decal. We will measure the smallest letter in your overall design, which in this case would be the lowercase e in Believe. As long as the e is at least 0.25" or taller, your phrase will be produced as Cut to Shape.
  • Color Overlap: We always add a 1/8" bleed to any decal design intended to be Cut to Shape. However, if there are parts of the design where colors overlap or butt up against each other at odd angles that could prevent us from accurately adding a bleed to the design, we'll opt to print on clear with a Contour Cut instead. Watercolor textures, fine floral or geometric patterns, and photographs can sometimes be issues when we're adding a bleed for cutting. Simple color block angles and solid single-color outlines, however, make adding a bleed for cutting much easier.

You can read more about our bleed and cut tolerances on our Design Tips page.

What if I specifically want my decal to be Cut to Shape?

You can always leave a note in your Order Comments when you place your order letting us know to contact you if we determine we won't be able to produce your decal as Cut to Shape. That way we can discuss your options and decide where to go from there.

As long as your artwork meets our Cut Tolerances and Bleed Requirements, you're all set!